Monday, June 27

British student returned at Swedish border for Brexit permit confusion

Michael Hawgood will study cancer genetics at the Karolinska Institute and, since his acceptance into the program in December, has been preparing for the move, contacting various Swedish authorities to make sure he has the paperwork.

But when he tried to move to Stockholm from Copenhagen, where he has lived since 2017, he was rejected despite having multiple documents showing that he was moving to Sweden to work and reside there.

The email correspondence seen by The Local shows how the Immigration Agency gave him information about the wrong type of permit.

After his acceptance into the program, Michael applied for a residence permit, now a requirement for Britons moving to Sweden to work or study. He says he found “a lot of contradictory information” about what he needed and contacted the Migration Agency several times to confirm that he had the correct documentation to make the move.

“Normally we are protected from this as EU citizens, but now the British do not belong to the EU, we have to go through all the obstacles,” he told The Local. The apparent confusion over what now applies to the British meant that Michael received misleading information when he contacted the Swedish authorities.

After the student asked what permit applied to him as a Briton who moved to Sweden for a PhD in 2021, he was misinformed by agency staff members about a work permit for which he was not eligible.

“If you are a British citizen and have lived in Sweden before Brexit, you can stay even if you are no longer an EU citizen,” said a member of the agency’s staff, directing Michael to the application for residence permits for Britons who already reside in Sweden before the end. of the transition period on December 31.

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When he asked about his permit for doctoral studies, he was also told: “Apply online, from Sweden and you can stay in Sweden waiting for a decision.” However, this information only applies to post-Brexit leave, and not to Brits in Michael’s situation, who first moved in after December 31, 2020.

A spokesperson for the Migration Agency confirmed this to The Local, saying: “British citizens who want to study in Sweden must now apply for a residence permit, which must be issued and granted before arriving.”

According to the information he had received, Michael left for his new apartment in Sweden on March 13, unaware that he needed an approved residence permit to enter, having been told that he could wait for it to be approved after arriving in the country. In addition to the proof of his permit application, he had his Swedish work contract, housing contract and negative Covid-19 test result.

When he arrived at the border on March 13, he says a border police officer told him that his documentation looked fine, but that it needed to be double-checked before he was allowed to enter Sweden.

“He said he could catch the next train in 20 minutes. Instead, I was waiting on the platform for three hours and then they sent me back to Denmark, where I no longer live, ”said Michael.

When he contacted the Migration Agency to explain what happened and ask what could be done to obtain the necessary documentation to travel, he was told again by email that “British citizens do not need a visa and only need a passport or a national identification card upon entry to Sweden ”.

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Under the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, this is correct and British people can stay in Sweden for up to 90 days as visitors without permission. However, by the time Michael was traveling, stricter rules on entry from both the UK and Denmark had been in place for several months, in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic.

This meant that it was not possible to enter Sweden unless the traveler fell into certain exempt categories, such as residents of Sweden. But to be considered in this category, Michael needed an approved residence permit and not just an application in progress. The agency also directed him to the border police, who are responsible for making decisions on individual cases and interpreting current border laws.

“But you can’t contact the border police,” Michael told The Local. “I tried several times, I called the Malmö police and they told me that they could not answer questions about border controls, and when I asked to contact the border police they said it was not possible. It seems like the only way to talk to them is when you’re standing in front of them at the border. “

“It has been extremely stressful and exhausting. I’ve been on the phone all week with Migrationsverket and the police trying to get answers and figure out what to do. It’s almost impossible to reach them by phone and all the conflicting information makes it very difficult to navigate, ”he says.

“I was destined to collect the key to my apartment that Saturday night. But I was not allowed to enter Sweden, I was in trouble. I had to arrange for my supervisor to collect the key on my behalf. I also had a moving company collect all my belongings the day before I left and they were delivered to me this week. I was extremely worried about what would happen to my things if I wasn’t there to receive them. Fortunately, my supervisor took care of that in Stockholm. “

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He had also moved out of his Copenhagen apartment and told the border police that his apartment and his belongings were in Stockholm.

As of March 22, Michael was informed that his application for permission had been accepted, although he says he only found out because he called the Immigration Agency every day and has not received any email or postal mail to confirm it.

“I wanted proof that I had been accepted, so I could take this with me across the border to show the police. Migrationsverket will not send me anything digitally, even though the year is 2021. Instead, they sent the documentation to the Swedish Embassy in London, ”said Michael, who still currently resides in Copenhagen.

He contacted the London embassy, ​​who told him that he could pick up a copy of the document at the Swedish embassy in Copenhagen, although when he visited the embassy, ​​they told him that this was not possible and that he could not contact the Swedish embassy. London in the day. phone.

At the time of publication, Michael had been told that his permit application had been approved, but that he would have to travel to Stockholm to obtain a photograph and fingerprints in order to issue the permit.

Michael Hawgood. Photo: Private

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